If the Pet Rock had debuted this holiday season, it would have been a Virtual Pet Rock—one that requires Windows 95 and 20 megs on your hard drive. Every year more doodads go electric. So, in the festive spirit here are some of the latest gadgets, both glorious and goofy. –George Mannes
1. 2-Way Pager (SkyTel, 800-643-0323, $399 plus subscription fee) What it does: Impresses the heck out of people. You receive messages as text, and you don’t have to race to a phone. Just push a button and the unit sends a reply from a list of preprogrammed responses. Who needs it: industry types too shy to gab on a cell phone in public.
2. DCR-VX1000 Camcorder (Sony, 800-222-SONY, $4,199) What it does: Leaves VHS and 8mm camcorders in the dust by recording ultrasharp video on a new generation of digital videotape. Who needs it: Rock bands shooting on-the-bus tour footage for their next enhanced CD.
3. Sidewainder 3D Pro Joystick (Microsoft, 800-426-9400, $59.95) What it does: Rotates turret. Acquires target. Thrusts. Fires. And, of course, doesn’t reach its full potential unless you upgrade to Windows 95. Who needs it: Retired fighter pilots with itchy fingers.
4. Screentoyz (Contango Inc., 800-839-3466, $39.95) What it does: Relieves stress the Wile E. Coyote way. Pressing the TNT detonator explodes the picture on your computer screen. Or you can flush a mini-toilet. Who needs it: Disgruntled postal workers with home computers.
5. Cybershades (Chinon America Inc., 310-533-0274, $199) What they do: Let you see a 3-D picture when you play specially enhanced games. What they really do is make it easy for your boss to catch you goofing off. Who needs them: Movie buffs who can’t wait for Terminator 3-D.
6. Nickelodeon Time Blaster Alarm Clock/Radio (Long Hall Technologies, major retailers, $29.99) What it does: As a slime-green light flashes, a heavy-metal cuckoo, a reveille, or the ”Nick Nick Nickelodeon” channel ID rudely interrupts your dreams. Who needs it: Kids who crave the cable channel every, um, waking hour.
7. AM/FM Radio Cap with NFL Logo (Unatech, major retailers, $39.95) What it does: Covers your head. Receives broadcasts of this week’s football games. Who needs it: Bleacher bums with a hot dog in one hand, a beer in the other, and no way to hold a
8. QV-10 Digital Camera (Casio, 800-962-2746, $999) What it does: Eliminates trips to the pharmacy for more film. Press a button and the camera memory electronically stores your shot, which is viewable on a 1.8-inch screen. Photos can be put on videotape or computer. Who needs it: Web meisters who want to keep their home page current.
9. Data Link Watch (Timex, 800-367-8463, $130) What it does: Turns a watch into an appointment book. Hold the Data Link in front of a computer monitor, and 70 phone numbers or anniversaries can be beamed into it. Who needs it: Hollywoodites tired of lugging laptops.
10. DRM-624X Six-Disc CD-Rom Changer (Pioneer New Media Technologies, 800-444-6784, $475) What it does: Lets computer gamers switch from King’s Quest to King’s Quest II without touching their CD-ROM drive. Who needs it: Folks with lots of spare time but no time to spare.